The four steps to IT consolidation nirvana

Philippe Elie, director, Business Operations EMEA, Riverbed explains consilidation.

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The four steps to IT consolidation nirvana Philippe Elie from Riverbed says that broader IT consolidation initiatives in enterprises are often met with skepticism because of complexity, distance and latency.
By  Phillipe Elie Published  May 13, 2013

Philippe Elie, director, Business Operations EMEA, Riverbed explains consilidation.

Tell your spouse that you’d like to consolidate your neatly organised home storage to a single closet and the idea may be met with a startled face twisted into a smirk. Why would you want to destabilise the status quo if what you have is adequate?

Similarly, broader IT consolidation initiatives in enterprises are often met with skepticism because of complexity, distance and latency, and the constraints of traditional IT organisational silos. And if things go awry, IT is in the hot seat to fix the problem and potentially backtrack on the project as executives and end users shake their heads in disappointment.

But progressive organisations are exploring ways to use the latest virtualisation technologies to move beyond server consolidation to deliver an efficient data centre infrastructure and expand the benefits of consolidation enterprise-wide. The benefits of a well planned and executed consolidation approach can not only save money, but also mitigate risk while boosting efficiency and business agility.

The path starts with adopting advanced consolidation strategies that build upon a foundation of basic server virtualisation, deepen the use of virtualisation, and extend consolidation across the enterprise.

It goes without saying that any consolidation strategy requires careful analysis and planning before execution. The strategies below all involve the data centre, which has been the focus of much recent investment, and serves as the bastion of cost-efficiency and control for IT branch offices.

Consolidate data centres

Returning to the closet analogy, wouldn’t it be great to store all of your tax documents, family pictures, and textbooks in a single closet? Imagine how easy and quick it would be to find your tax return in neatly organised and properly labeled drawers? The benefits of having such a “dream” closet at home are similar to having a consolidated data centre in the IT world, where IT is completely centralised.

The big question is how to eliminate data centres without impeding performance and the productivity of employees. The first step is to analyse and plan with application performance baselines and dependency maps to reduce the risk and to brace for challenges, such as migrating data and applications so that there is no interruption to the business. With selected data centres outfitted to assume greater load and remaining data centres scheduled for closures, you must replicate applications to the surviving data centres and then transition users to the new host.

You can use application delivery controllers (ADCs) to redirect users between facilities and increase the ongoing reliability and performance of those applications. ADCs have global and local load balancing capabilities that allow you to shift application resources between locations, manage and upgrade underlying infrastructure, and distribute application load between multiple servers and data centres, all without disrupting end-user access to applications.

The remaining data centres will have to support more users from further locations, so you may think that more bandwidth is required to support the increased traffic over the WAN. However, that may not be the silver bullet — and in many cases is not necessary. Latency combined with application protocol inefficiencies is the real culprit that bottlenecks WANs. By implementing a WAN optimisation solution between the remaining data centres and field offices before migrating applications, you can accelerate the migration of data and applications to the new location, as well as ensure that end users continue to experience consistent levels of performance.

Virtualise application delivery

Does the idea of a fully virtualised, highly automated, and highly efficient concentration of computing resources appeal to you? Then consider how the architecture underpinning the applications hosted in your data centres can be structured to realise this vision. Server virtualisation, storage provisioning, and deduplication technologies can drive greater efficiency from infrastructure investments, but they are largely agnostic to applications. That means applications remain resource inefficient.

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